Written Assignment

Niche

Find an aspect of your text that you know better than most people

I have already said this several times, but this is especially true for the WA - you need to write about something uniquely you can write. To do well, you need to give a personal interpretation, which can only come from your own, close reading of the text. The Interactive Oral, though it is not officially graded by IB, is an excellent opportunity to find such a niche. Try to participate as much as you can in the IO, and hopefully you find a pattern of what you like to talk about the most - usually it’s something your classmates (and even sometimes your teacher) may miss but you always catch. This is what you must write about.

Bear in mind that the examiner will be someone that doesn’t know you personally. It is therefore necessary that you formulate every argument carefully. However, if you write about an aspect of your work that the examiner hadn’t thought about before, this is a big positive, so long as you back up your personal reading with a close reading from the text.

My Written Assignment was on Waiting for Godot, and about the profoundly theological ideas in the play. I argued that although the Biblical allusions in the play seem to be lost, and like much of the rest of the play, seemingly lead nowhere, the allusions construct a purgatory-like setting, whereby the protagonists seek salvation and repentance and undergo suffering. This, rather more personal reading was supported by numerous literary devices from the text.

On a side note, I wrote about my WA in my UCAS Personal Statement when applying to University, and was asked about the arguments in my WA in 3 of the 4 interviews I had at Oxford. Perhaps writing my WA largely emulated the type of close reading that may be required in pursuing Theology and Religion, and because it was about theological themes and motifs, I was better motivated to spend large periods of time re-reading the play, writing, and editing.


Thesis

Your thesis wins you half your grades - close reading wins you the other half.
— Anonymous English Literature Student

Build a deep thesis from your interests and close reading

Your thesis is vital to score well, as it sets the direction for your WA as a whole. You need to show that you appreciate the text by giving your personal interpretation of a deeper reading of the text as a whole. Ensure that your thesis is possible to argue for using close reading from the text, and ideally, it should involve a deeper theme or motif and a literary device.

For instance, in my WA I wrote, “From a theological reading of Waiting for Godot, it is difficult to ignore the prevalence of Biblical and other religious references throughout, from the setting, to more sophisticated developments of protagonists. Furthermore, many of these allusions do not only highlight disunity between the protagonists, but also inability to find tangible evidence for the existence of God or salvation. Such continuous waiting for salvation, as well as numerous references to pain and purification seem to indicate an analogous setting to purgatory, which, from a Catholic Christian point of view is a place of purification, whereby suffering and repentance lead to salvation, that is, Communion with God.”

Notice how my thesis includes several literary devices to support it, and includes the deeper motifs associated with a purgatory-like setting. In this sense, close reading and your thesis are intimately connected and the tricky part is to connect the two together in a flowing argument in the introduction.


Levels

Look at the different levels at which your work can be interpreted for a richer analysis

All the longer literary works you will study for a WA are constructed at multiple levels. Do not limit yourself to just one of these levels, but look at the work both holistically and closely. This is an almost paradoxical challenge, so it is difficult, but if you manage to do this, you will be able to score very highly in your WA. Throughout your essay, look at the plot level, the image level, and the word level to show that you appreciate the text both holistically and closely.

In my essay, I first explored possible meanings for the word “Godot” at a word level, arguing that there is an oxymoron hidden in the two syllables of this made-up word. “God” is considered the grand creator of the universe who is beyond time and space and provider of meaning to the world, whereas a “dot”, by contrast, is the smallest thing one could imagine.
In another paragraph, I discussed Estragon and Vladimir at the image level, who seem to undergo suffering without understanding the meaning of such suffering.
Finally, I explained that there is an anomaly at the plot level, as the purgatory-like-setting constructed throughout the play would anticipate the coming of God/Godot to “save” Estragon and Vladimir - but Godot never appears.

Notice how I use various different levels of the text to support my thesis and how this seems to construct a stronger argument than if I had just used one of these levels of analysis.


Edit

Feedback for draft

As per IB rules, you can only get one written feedback for your draft, so you need to make the most of it. I was quite fortunate, as my teacher gave me lots of detailed feedback both written down on my work and orally. However, I have heard of several students from other IB schools that they did not get adequate feedback. I would recommend pressing your teacher and really asking them to give you specific examples of where you can improve. Also, if your teacher doesn’t already do this, you should ask your teacher what mark they might predict for you for each criterion, so that you know exactly where you are at and how much more you need to improve.

Also, notice that IB regulations state that you can only get one written feedback for your draft. However, you should be able to get more informal advice if you talk to your teacher. My teacher, as I say was quite open, and I’m sure most teachers in the IB world are quite open to discussing your WA topic informally, so really make the most of your teachers - they are probably your top resource.

Sit with a rubric and your WA when you think you’re ready

Although your teacher can only look through your WA once, you can look through your WA as many times as you want. When you feel you are ready to submit, perhaps spend an extra 1-2 hours to check over your WA. Literally have a printed copy of your WA on your right an IB WA rubric on your left and try to give yourself an honest mark. Go through the rubric line by line and see if your WA matches the highest band of the rubric. If it doesn’t then go over it again and edit/proofread your work to make your essay the strongest it can possible be before you submit it. Trust me - the examiners are stricter than you think with the WA - it is perhaps one of the hardest components of any subject to score well on.